All the admissions decisions are in, and I got rejected from most of my schools but I did get into one of my top choice's....Masters program. So I called this school's math department today and I got the rundown of being in the Masters program. I made it clear that it is not my intention to get a Masters or even be a masters student, I ultimately want to be a fully funded PhD student. I got the following response: 1) There is a way to be favorably admitted to the PhD program via doing well in classes and getting a high mark on written exams. 2) Chances of getting funded are extremely tough and there have been examples of stellar PhD (not even Masters) students who decided to enter without funding for 1 or 2 years who still have not gotten funding. Usually this school funds only 10-12 students a year, and regularly have 400-500 applicants. Here is my stance on this situation: I can work my butt off for my Masters, which would add up to ~ $40k in loans. Even if I get into the PhD program, my chances of funding are not great. The person who I spoke to in the department told me I might have to wait until my Oral exam to be funded. This is one of my top choices for grad school, but the possibility to having to wait 2-3 years to get funding, amassing about $60-70k in loans (if I can even borrow that much) does not seem very appealing. I'm considering turning down their Masters admissions and staying a 9th semester, or maybe a full 5th year. What I would do in the 5th year: 1) Over this upcoming summer, one of the things I would do is study for my GRE Math subject exam score again. It has become clear to me that I need a great GRE score. Many of the schools said that once applications come in, unless the person has great letters of recommendations, the first way to cut them down is by GRE scores. I had an atrocious GRE Math score, but I'm confident if I study over the summer, I might be able to get a great GRE score. 2) Take a grad course and two independent studies: one in general relativity and one in Lie Algebras and Particle Physics. Both independent studies have been confirmed and the professors have agreed to it. The general relativity independent study will probably involve me writing an undergraduate thesis and hopefully display my knowledge of both geometry, tensor analysis and physics. The Lie Algebra and Particle Physics independent study might also be used to write an undergraduate thesis, i.e. rigorously solve one of the problems in the graduate textbook. Over the summer I would also study a bit for these research projects, more in the way of background material. Here is my timeline: Summer - Work 20-30 hours a week - Study for the GRE Math Subject exam 10 hours a week - Study for my independent studies 15-25 hours a week That is at worst a 65 hour week, which isn't too bad at all. I'm usually bored out of my mind during the summer vacation anyway. Fall - Take a grad course (Topology I or Algebra I) and the two independent studies If I do well in these independent studies and my grad course, and I mean really well, I see my graduate application as this: 1) High GRE Math Score (I'm aiming for an 85+% percentile score) 2) 3 letters of recommendation - one from a professor that I worked with for 3 semesters and this semester might publish a paper on an unsolved problem, one from my general relativity professor (in the math department) that I would've worked with for 2 semesters (including Fall 2008) and one from a prominent physics professor at my school who I did my Lie Algebra independent study with, who I only did a semester with. But if I do really well and get a paper published and 2 undergraduate projects done, I see this as 3 really good letters. The recommenders that I might get a paper with is extremely well known in their field, my general relativity professor got their PhD a few years ago and is not as so well known and the professor I might get a recommendation from is very very well known in theoretical particle physics and string theory. 3) High GPA from a top 10 (according to rankings) geometry school, ~ 3.8 4) Done well in a grad course (though not comparable to some students who have taken 5-6 grad courses). Overall, I view this is as a very strong graduate school application and A MUCH stronger application than what I had in Fall 2007. Thanks in advance for the advice/help/tips. PS: I know I made a similar thread about staying a 5th year, but now this is staying a 5th year vs. doing a Masters.